The chance to work in December leads some young New York performers to spend Christmas with the Omaha Symphony. And the chance to repeat that experience leads some of them back the following year.
When the symphony opens its Christmas with the Symphony tonight at the Holland Performing Arts Center, concertgoers will see several singers and dancers who eagerly agreed to return to Omaha after having performed here last year — and, in some cases, the year before as well.
“Just from an artistic standpoint, there are no corners cut here,” said featured female vocalist Kelly McCormick, who also filled that role in 2011.
When she thinks of the symphony's musicians and staff members, “I don't think you could get a collection of kinder, more generous people together. We're treated like gold; we're supported as artists and musicians.”
“It's always great to come back (to) the first rehearsal and see that they know you,” added dancer Tyler Foy, who is appearing in his third “Christmas With the Symphony.” “It's a warm family here.”
Ernest Richardson, the symphony's resident conductor, will lead his ensemble and guest performers through more than two dozen Christmas and winter favorites in just over two hours. The Voices of Omaha choir, the River City Ringers handbell choir, students of symphony violinist Anne Nagosky and the “dancing Santas” also will once again be part of the festivities.
In addition to McCormick and Foy, dancers Melissa Steadman, Kyle Vaughn and Tiffany Ocvirk have previously joined the symphony for the holiday concerts. Directors Vince Pesce and Stephen Bourneuf also are returning members of the visiting New York company, which began rehearsals there before Thanksgiving and arrived in Omaha Dec. 4.
“If you're not in a Broadway show or on tour, you're not employed at this time during the holidays,” said Steadman, a third-year guest performer like Foy. “We come here for 12 days and still can be home to spend the holiday with our families.”
Vaughn agreed, but he added that returning to Omaha for a second Christmas lets him again connect with Nebraska relatives during the holidays.
The San Diego native is the nephew of Mike and Susan Williams of Funk, Neb., and his cousins, Mike Vaughn and Kate Vaughn Williams, both live in Omaha.
McCormick said it was a “no-brainer” to return to Omaha after her experience last year, which began when she auditioned for Richardson in New York in August 2011.
The Detroit-area native, who made her professional debut in 2004, has appeared off-Broadway in “Her Song” and “The Extraordinary Ordinary” and had roles in national tours of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “Les Miserables.”
Though she has enjoyed steady work nationwide, she said, she considers Omaha's commitment to its symphony orchestra something that performers should cherish.
“First and foremost, as a singer, there's no greater joy than to sing with a full symphony,” McCormick said. “The opportunities (to do so) are getting fewer and farther between. You look at Broadway, and theaters are always looking to downsize” — including replacing pit orchestras with synthesizers.
Of all the songs on the program, McCormick enjoys singing Mel Torme's “The Christmas Song” the most.
“It's just so simple and beautiful and ingrained in all of us as one of those quintessential Christmas moments.”